When it comes to shucking the oyster, lots of professional chefs and shuckers alike will use a chain-mail, leather or even Kevlar woven glove to hold the oyster for shucking. But if you’re not in the mood to gear up before you grill, just grab a kitchen towel you’re not afraid to get a little torn up. Click here for our step-by-step guide.
When selecting oysters, it’s important to make sure you’re getting quality, fresh product. Alabama is historically the largest processor of oysters in America and is home to some of the best public and private oyster reefs anywhere. And while great oysters come from all across the Gulf, Alabama’s large system of brackish rivers, bays and estuaries makes for the perfect balance of fresh and salt water that oysters love. Click here to read more about Alabama’s signature seafood product.
Heat your grill (preferably charcoal or wood-fired, but gas works just fine) until it’s blazingly hot. Make sure you follow your grill manufacturer’s warnings and settings (we don’t want anybody getting hurt here). Temperatures between 500 and 750 degrees are often used in restaurants to chargrill oysters, but for most at-home grillers, 500 should suffice. While the grill is getting fired up, it’s time to get the sauce going.
Truthfully, sauce is a bit of a stretch. It’s really a compound butter, which is just a fancy way to say fresh flavors whipped into extremely soft butter. Lots of chargrilled oyster recipes call for ladling a delicious buttery concoction across the top of open-faced beauties while on the grill. And while this is a great way to prepare them, a compound butter is more precise and much more efficient, allowing you to dollop and dab the flavor in just the right spot on the oyster. And even though we all love the taste of butter, the flavor of the oyster should shine through instead of being drowned by buttery goodness. Plus this prevents causing major arm-singeing flame-ups on your grill.
To make any compound butter, you’ve got to get it soft. Super soft. In fact, it’d probably be a good idea to leave it out a couple hours before you get started. And don’t let your mother’s warnings about refrigerating butter haunt you—lots of people leave butter out of the fridge in a butter dish all the time. You can use a wide variety of herbs and spices. Chefs have been known to use anything as mild as tarragon or as wild as rosemary, but this recipe calls for a simple blend of thyme and parsley. These are both hard-working herbs that serve as a balance against the richness of the butter and the boldness of the garlic. They add a simple bouquet of flavor to the oysters without overpowering.
In a medium bowl, mix in all the ingredients from the butter to the Kosher sea salt. With a spatula, fold the ingredients until they’re consistently whipped together. Once you’ve got your compound butter ready and your grill is hot, grab a good, thick grill mitt and your longest pair of tongs and place the oysters on the hottest spot on the grill. For this first step, leave them on the grill for just a few minutes until the edges begin to curl slightly, they begin to plump and the brine around the oysters begins to boil.
While still on the grill (and still wearing your grill mitt), dollop the compound butter on top of each oyster to fill up each shell. After just a few minutes when the sauce begins to bubble, sprinkle the top of each oyster with grated Romano cheese.
Let the oysters cook until the cheese is melted and the oysters are beginning to brown around the edges. Carefully using your tongs (because the oyster shell is highly uneven and the buttery goodness can easily spill out), remove the oysters and place them on a plate or platter than can handle a few hundred degrees of scorching hot oyster shells. And if you want to butter up your guests, you can always add a drop of compound butter to the top of each oyster while still hot.
While these oysters are insanely delicious by themselves, one of the greatest joys of eating chargrilled oysters is chargrilled French bread. Cut your French bread loaf in half long-ways and in 3-4 inch segments. Spread the compound butter on the inside of the bread and place them on the still super-hot grill face down. Let it grill for just a couple minutes or until the surface is golden brown and marked with dark brown or black char-marks from your grill.
Serve the oysters while still sizzling hot with the crispy, smoky French bread and fresh-cut lemon wedges. While delicious in its own right, the bread is for mopping up the saucy goodness left on your plate.
The only problem with this recipe is that a dozen is not nearly enough. If you’ve got several hungry guests to feed, consider serving a dozen per person. Simply multiply your compound butter recipe for every dozen oysters you plan to serve.
Click here to find a list of retailers near you that serve genuine Alabama Gulf Oysters and make sure you share this recipe with those you know would appreciate it.